Of calm and peace- the Golden Temple Amritsar
- Part 2 of the travelogue Into Punjab, Golden Temple Amritsar - I’m not at all religious. I also disagree with the idea of a specific site where one can encounter God. Often times, such places are a concentration of archaic customs, misery and poverty, and businesses based on religion that I just can’t rationalize. But then, that’s my opinion. To some, such sites and pilgrimages are really a means to feel closer to the higher being, and that, I certainly respect. After all, to each her own.
It is rare that I have enjoyed being at a religious site. I can count on one hand when I’ve truly enjoyed visiting a religious destination in India- the Jageshwar temple complex close to Almora in Uttarakhand, Konark in Orissa and Omkareshwar/Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh. It might have been that many of these temples are defunct, reduced to ruins or heritage sites. The absence of priests is what draws me to them. But the exception amongst them all is the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar, the holiest site for Sikh across the world. And it has a lot to do with the Sikh faith. The Sikh faith revolves around equality, karma, sharing, service, brotherhood, a belief that God is without form or gender, and 'chardi kala', contentment and a positive attitude towards life at all times. These tenets of Sikhism manifest in every form at the Harmandir Sahib.
Before entering the complex, I handed over my shoes at the shoe deposit area and was given a token in return. I then covered my head with a scarf as a mark of respect (everyone must cover their heads). Before walking into the complex, one is required to step through a small stream of water, in order to clean one’s feet before entering this holy complex. Anywhere else in India, such arrangements only mean slush and dirt. Except the Golden Temple remains immaculate, all thanks to exceptional organization and service. A certain calm descends upon anyone who visits, driven by the soothing music that envelopes the complex. All of a sudden, India’s discord is left behind, everyone is polite and generous and the world is exactly how it should be- filled with goodness and warmth.
If only there was a Harmandir Sahib in every street, every corner, every neighbourhood… and every heart. At least there’s an example to strive for.
Love and peace, Minu